Women's Tennis
    No. 5 USC Women Look For Back-To-Back Wins Over Rival Bruins
    The Trojans take on the Bruins in a televised match on Thursday at USC!
    The Trojans take on the Bruins in a televised match on Thursday at USC!

    April 16, 2013

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    THIS WEEK
    At 20-2 overall and a perfect 9-0 in Pac-12 play, the No. 5 USC women's tennis team already has its claim on the 2013 Pac-12 Championship in-hand, but the Trojans are hungry for both an undefeated conference finish and serious bragging rights when rival UCLA comes to town this week in the regular-season finale. The grudge match is set for a 1:30 p.m. start on Thursday (April 18) at Marks Stadium, where the Trojans and the No. 7 Bruins will square off as USC aims to claim back-to-back wins over UCLA for the first time since 2006. The singles portion of the match will begin at 3 p.m. and will be televised by Pac-12 Networks, and there will be a food truck for USC fans! On the broadcast for the match will be Paul Sunderland and Justin Gimelstob.

    ITA RANKING UPDATES
    The last set of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on April 16, with the USC women ranked No. 5 in the land for the third straight cycle. USC was No. 4 from Jan. 3-Feb. 18 and was No. 6 in the next cycle before taking a loss to No. 7 Cal that dropped the Trojans out of the top-10 for just one week. The latest individual rankings were released April 16, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria -- once ranked No. 1 in the nation in singles -- still locked at No. 2 in the land. Senior Danielle Lao stands at No. 8 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 30, followed by fellow sophomore No. 75 Gabriella DeSimone. In doubles, USC's top guns Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian remain undefeated, but have slipped down to No. 2 this week after having continue to reign supreme as the nation's No. 1 team all season long until this week's latest ranking cycle. USC also has No. 50 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 53 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.

    BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPS
    USC locked in as Pac-12 champion for the second straight season thanks to last week's 5-2 win at No. 64 Oregon, which secured the Women of Troy as the only team still undefeated in Pac-12 play with one match to go. USC finished atop the Pac-12 standings last season with a 9-1 record, falling only to Stanford in 2012. This season, the Trojans avenged that loss to the Cardinal with a powerful 6-1 win over Stanford last month. USC beat Cal and Stanford both that weekend to give those teams their only losses of the year, guaranteeing the Trojans (9-0 Pac-12) at least a share of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship regardless of the outcome on Thursday against UCLA. The Bruins have taken two Pac-12 losses this season and are out of reach of any conference crown hopes.

    SCOUTING UCLA
    The No. 7 Bruins are 16-4 overall and 5-2 in Pac-12 play after beating Oregon 6-1 last week. UCLA has five players ranked nationally in singles: #3 Robin Anderson, #66 Kyle McPhillips, #88 Catherin Harrison, #90 Caitlyn Ray and #114 Chanelle Van Nguyen. In doubles, UCLA has three ranked teams: #19 Anderson/Morton, #45 McPhillips/Morton and #59 Dolehide/Montez. USC is 45-40 all-time against the Bruins after a 4-2 win over UCLA earlier this season in Westwood. Last year, the Bruins and the Trojans faced four times. UCLA beat USC 4-0 in the 2012 ITA National Indoor semifinals, 4-3 in a nonconference clash and 4-3 in the 2012 NCAA Semifinals. USC beat UCLA 6-1 during Pac-12 play to help secure a share of the 2012 Pac-12 Championship.

    TROJANS BY THE NUMBERS
    As USC has successfully gathered in its second straight 20-win season, several Women of Troy are also hitting high marks in the individual win columns. Currently holding a 20-match win streak, Sabrina Santamaria leads the pack with a 29-3 overall singles record, including a perfect 16-0 dual-match mark. Next is Danielle Lao (25-4, 18-1) followed by two more 20-win club members: Gabriella DeSimone at 21-8, 12-4 and Kaitlyn Christian at 20-6, 13-3. Giuliana Olmos (19-4, 16-3), meanwhile is poised to hit 20 with a successful run in USC's next match. Other heavy hitters in the Trojan lineup are Zoë Scandalis at 16-7, 12-2 and Ellie Yates (14-3, 13-2). Overall, every single Trojan has a single-digit loss count in singles play, led by Santamaria having won 90 percent of her matches. With USC's win over Oregon last week, the Trojans have now hit 20 teams wins for the third time in the past five seasons and 15th time overall.

    LAST WEEK
    No. 5 USC women's tennis team secured the 2013 Pac-12 title for itself with a 5-2 win at No. 64 Oregon last week.The Ducks weren't going down without a fight, though, as was clear in doubles play. USC featured three new pairings in the doubles lineup for this one, and only managed to pull out one win -- an 8-3 victory from DeSimone/Lao at the No. 3 spot. Oregon grabbed the first point of the day on wins over Olmos/Scandalis on court one and over Pulido/Santamaria on court two. The Women of Troy got back to business on the singles scene, however. #2 Sabrina Santamaria rebounded from the tight 9-7 loss on the doubles courts and served up a shutout on court two. She blanked Patricia Skowronski 6-0, 6-0 to tally the sophomore's 20th consecutive singles win. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis stepped into the top spot in today's match, and the #30 sophomore delivered a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nicole Long to further help the Trojan cause. Over on court six, USC freshman Ellie Yates was just one game shy of a shutout against Oregon's Rabea Stueckemann. Yates pounded out a 6-0, 6-1 victory for the third time in her Trojan career. USC was in control throughout singles, surrendering just one match on Julia Metger's 6-4, 6-4 win over USC's #114 Giuliana Olmos on court three. At No. 4, USC's #58 Gabriella DeSimone zoomed to a 6-1, 6-3 win over Pascale Neubert, and Kaitlyn Christian dished out a 6-1, 6-4 win over Lana Buttner on court five. That wrapped the day's action for the Women of Troy, who pocketed the solid 5-2 win before packing up to head home to Los Angeles for the coming finale at Marks Stadium.

    STRONG START
    USC matched the most dominant start to a season in program history -- set in 1982 with five consecutive shutout wins -- when the Trojans dished out back-to-back 7-0 sweeps of opponents on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. The 1982 Trojan team tallied 9-0 wins in its first five matches that year. In 2013, the USC women posted three 7-0 sweeps along with 6-0 and 4-0 decisions during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to build up a hefty head of steam entering the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. There, the Trojans made a move into the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over No. 12 Virginia. That broke up USC's stretch of shutout wins, and the Trojans would take their first loss of 2013 with a tight 4-3 defeat at the hands of No. 8 North Carolina. The Tar Heels would go on to win it all, taking the ITA Indoor title with a victory over UCLA in the final. USC, meanwhile, would find redemption in a solid 4-1 consolation match over No. 7 California, bringing USC's overall record to 7-1. At tournament's end, USC would land Danielle Lao on the ITA National Indoor All-Tournament Team for her strength at No. 1 singles, along with Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria on the team for No. 1 doubles.

    D-LAO THE GIANT KILLER
    A force to reckon with for the Trojans at the top of the lineup, senior Danielle Lao took down two top-10 opponents in singles play at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, opening the tournament with a bigtime upset of Virginia's #4 Julia Elbaba in straight sets. Ranked #10 in the nation at the time, Lao beat North Carolina's #28 Zoe De Bruycker in straight sets as well the next day, and then capped off the weekend with yet another straight-set upset in a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Cal's #7 Zsofi Susanyi to clinch USC's win over the Bears. In doubles, Lao went 2-1 with teammate Giuliana Olmos, including a clinching win over UNC's ranked pair. Lao's winning run kept the senior undefeated in dual-match singles play. She's now ranked #8 in the land, holding a 25-4 overall singles record and an 18-1 mark in dual-match play thanks to a nine-match win streak.

    PAC-12 PUNCH
    USC has a full lineup of Pac-12 Player of the Week recipients this season, led by three-time honoree Sabrina Santamaria. Santmaria picked up the first award of the year on Jan. 21, and Giuliana Olmos made it back-to-back honors with a win in the second week of action (Jan. 28). Joining the honor roll since then have been four more Women of Troy: Danielle Lao (Feb. 12), Ellie Yates (March 5), Zoë Scandalis (March 19) and Gabriella DeSimone (April 2).

    POWER COUPLE
    Two other women's doubles teams may have been able to win back-to-back ITA National Indoor Championships, but no one has done it as decisively as USC's Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria. In a morning title match in New York on Nov. 11, 2012, the two young Trojans successfully defend their 2011 championship with all-out domination of their opponents. A swift shutout crowned the two Women of Troy as the 2012 champs, making longtime friends Christian and Santamaria just the third team in history - and first since 1998 - to go back-to-back. In the title match, Christian and Santamaria rolled out an unheard-of 6-0, 6-0 shutout of Virginia's Nauta/Xi for a feat never before achieved in the final of the ITA National Indoors on either the women's or men's sides. The USC junior-sophomore combo now boasts four major titles together in just over one year as a Trojan tandem. Now with the back-to-back ITA National Team Indoor titles in hand, Christian and Santamaria are also the proud owners of the 2012 Pac-12 Doubles Championship and the 2012 ITA/ Riviera All-American Doubles Championship. Christian/Santamaria currently hold a perfect 25-0 record together this season. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25.

    DESERT SUCCESS
    USC sophomore Sabrina Santamaria pulled some seriously successful double duty in Las Vegas, drumming up the singles and doubles titles at the Freeman Memorial Tennis Championship to also work her way to her first career honors as Pac-12 Player of the Week. Santamaria started the day by pairing up with her trusty doubles partner Kaitlyn Christian, and the nation's top doubles team slated two more opponents to win in the semis and final today to claim another championship. Later in the day, Santamaria struck out on her own and shocked the No. 2 seeded and #11 ranked Gina Suarez-Malaguti of UNC with a smooth 6-0, 6-1 victory in the singles championship. Christian and Santamaria started the day off right, beating a UCLA pair with an 8-4 semifinal victory over No. 3 seeded Bruins Dolehide/Montez to earn that trip to the title match. At the other side of the bracket, USC's Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido were also in a semifinal battle, but took an 8-2 loss to UNC's No. 2 seeded Dai/Kay. Christian/Santamaria would avenge that loss by their teammates with an 8-4 win over Dai/Kay in the final to ring up the Trojan duo's first title of the spring.

    SINGLES SCENE
    The USC women are led by three All-Americans. Senior Danielle Lao entered her senior campaign leading the pack at No. 14 in the nation in singles, with two more Women of Troy also standing tall in the top-20 to start 2013. Sophomore Sabrina Santamaria --- who reached the ITA Southwest Regional singles final for the second straight year in the fall -- sat at No. 17, along with sophomore Zoë Scandalis at No. 19. Also in the singles rankings to start was another USC sophomore, Gabriella DeSimone, who held her first career ITA ranking at No. 56 after her strong fall performance following up some big wins for the Trojans during the 2012 NCAA tournament.

    DOUBLES DOSE
    The Women of Troy opened 2013 with a complete set of doubles tandems in the rankings. USC's vaunted junior-sophomore duo of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria remain locked in as the nation's No. 1 team. The winners of back-to-back ITA National Indoor doubles championships as well as the 2012 Pac-12 doubles title and the 2012 ITA/Riviera All-American champs, Christian/Santamaria are clearly the team to beat in 2013. That won't be easy, however, as they proved with a resounding 6-0, 6-0 shutout of their opponents in the title match of the ITA National Indoors, where the Trojans became the first team since 1998 to win back-to-back doubles crowns at the event. Packing even more punch into the lineup for 2013 were another two USC women's doubles pairs in the rankings. Sophomore combo Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis ranked No. 13 in the land to start 2013, and ITA Southwest Regional champions Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido --- the only seniors on the Trojan roster in 2013 -- stood at No. 40.

    LAST SEASON
    Last year, USC won a share of the Pac-12 Championship, finishing 8-1 in conference play before making a run to the NCAA Semifinals, thanks to a quarterfinal win over Stanford. The 24-4 finish for USC had the Trojans ranked No. 4 in the nation for USC's highest final ranking since 2006. At the Pac-12 Tournament, Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria won the Pac-12 Doubles Championship and would go on to earn the No. 4 seed into the NCAA Doubles Tournament. In the NCAA Singles Tournament, freshman Santamaria worked her way to All-American status with a run to the quarterfinals. She would finish the year with All-American honors for singles and doubles with Christian. Danielle Lao and Zoë Scandalis also earned All-American singles accolades. Scandalis was named the ITA National Player to Watch, and Christian and Santamaria were named to the ITA All-Star Team. In USC's first appearance in the NCAA Team Semifinals since 2006, the Trojans fell 4-3 to top-seeded rival UCLA. At the close of the tourney, Sabrina Santamaria earned NCAA All-Tournament Team honors at the No. 3 singles position, and Danielle Lao / Alison Ramos were also selected for the team at No. 3 doubles.